This year our Lent Course is going to be a bit different. We will be doing the Living in Love and Faith Course produced by the Church of England. As many of you will know, the Church of England has for many years been engaging in a thorough exploration of issues of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The product of this work is the Living in Love and Faith resources which we are invited by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to consider as a parish.
The resources are designed to encourage and enable engagement and learning in a variety of settings. This church-wide learning together, listening to one another, and listening to God is part of discerning a way forward for the Church of England in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage. The purpose of the resources is to enable the Church of England churches across the country to participate in a process of learning and praying together as part of discerning a way forward in relation to matters of identity, sexuality, relationships and marriage.
The Church of England is keenly aware that issues of gender and sexuality are intrinsic to people’s experience; their sense of identity; their lives and the loving relationships that shape and sustain them. We also know that the life and mission of our Church – and of the worldwide Anglican Communion – are affected by the deep, and sometimes painful, disagreements among us which have been debated and discussed on many occasions over the years.
These divisions have come into sharper focus because of society’s changing perspectives and practices, especially in relation to lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and intersex people. The Church wants to understand what it means to follow Christ in love and faith given the questions about human identity and the variety of patterns of relationship emerging in our society, including marriage, civil partnership, cohabitation, celibacy and friendship.
The LLF resources explore these matters by studying what the Bible, theology, history and the social and biological sciences have to say, and by telling the real-life stories of followers of Christ with diverse experiences and convictions.
The project is led by the Bishops of the Church of England because of their particular responsibility for upholding and teaching the Christian faith. However, the production of the resources has involved a large and diverse group of people. These include the members of the LLF Coordinating Group, chaired by the Bishop of Coventry, and the members of the four working groups focusing on the Bible, theology, history and the social and biological sciences.
The course which we are running is spread over five evenings as follows:
Session 1: Learning Together
What does it mean to learn together as followers of Jesus Christ?
Session 2: Identity
How does our identity in Christ relate to sex and gender?
Session 3: Relationships
What kinds of relationships does God call us to?
Session 4: Sex
Where do our bodies and sex fit into all this?
Session 5: Life Together
How do diversity and difference affect out life together as a church?
The course will start on Wednesday 24th February at 7.30pm and will be on zoom. As it is so important that in a course like this we are particularly sensitive to the life experiences of others, and as the first session covers a lot on how to relate to each other, I would ask that if you would like to take part in any of the sessions that you do attend the first session. Unlike other courses we have run, it will not be possible to jump on the bus once it has left the bus stop!
Also I would encourage those who are regular church goers to join in the course as it is aimed principally at them.
Please do let me know if you would like to take part.